Justinian Lane

The Road To Hell Is Paved With Asbestos Tiles

Asbestos cleanup is expensive.  You’ve got to have trained personnel and provide them with protective gear.  Or, you can just have handicapped kids do it:

A retired Bridger High School teacher who had special education students remove asbestos floor tiles from a school building has been sentenced to one year of probation.

Sixty-year-old Randal Ecker pleaded guilty in July to violating the federal Clean Air Act.

Plans to renovate portions of a school building were approved by the school board in 2003, but they didn't include the removal of floor tiles.
At Ecker's direction, five students removed more than 100 square feet of floor tiles that contained asbestos. Ecker received permission to remove the tiles from a newly hired superintendent who didn't know the flooring was contaminated.

Source: Teacher who had students remove asbestos sentenced | North Dakota News

If this teacher knew the tiles contained asbestos, one-year of probation is sickeningly lenient; criminal charges under state law and jail time may have been more appropriate.  The good news is that the school district settled with each of the children, but the bad news is that the settlement was funded by taxpayers, and not the manufacturers/installers of these tiles.

The tort reform movement often questions why there continues to be a large number of new asbestos suits filed.  Improper asbestos abatement surely is part of the reason. 

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Posted at 7:40 PM, Aug 25, 2008 in Asbestos
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He was charged criminally; that's what the one year of probation means. It's not employment probation. As the story says (second paragraph), "Sixty-year-old Randal Ecker pleaded guilty in July to violating the federal Clean Air Act." So I'm not sure why you'd say criminal charges would be more appropriate, since that's what happened. Maybe you mean he should have gotten jail time?

Posted by: Bill Childs | August 25, 2008 9:00 PM

I'm sorry Professor - that's what I get for doing two things at once. I meant criminal charges under state law and jail time. Thank you for the correction. I'm updating the post to reflect what I meant.

Posted by: Justinian Lane | August 25, 2008 9:06 PM

Justinian: What damage did the payment of $251,000 to each student remedy?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | August 25, 2008 9:15 PM

Asbestos is dangerous when it is in a form that can be inhaled. Encapsulated forms of asbestos represent little, if any danger, but the panic fostered by the trial bar makes the very mention of asbestos a toxic subject

I suspect, unless you have information to the contrary, that none of these kids suffered any damage except in their parents' imaginations

Posted by: Avenger | August 26, 2008 7:03 AM

Avenger, the tiles may have been safe when they were stuck to the floor. But have you ever removed floor tiles? They tend to bend and break and can therefore release asbestos fibers.

Regardless of whether you think the settlement was excessive, I hope you'll agree that schools shouldn't use special education students as day laborers - especially in dangerous jobs.

Posted by: Justinian Lane | August 26, 2008 8:21 AM

Justinian: This settlement was for speculative damages or non-existent damages. It is a typical tort case.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | August 26, 2008 11:43 AM